Protecting healthcare workers from coronavirus must be a top priority

Hospitals and health systems are working to stay ahead of coronavirus — both the outbreak itself and a constant stream of information emerging through multiple sources.

Strict quarantine guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have helped hospitals prepare for the worst, according to recent reports.

“We’re buying some time now that it hasn’t really spread so much in the United States,” Mark Jarrett, chief quality officer for Northwell Health, a New York hospital chain, said in a Feb. 18 HealthDay article. “That’s giving us a chance to gear up factories and address supply chain issues.”

Thousands of people have died of coronavirus, according to CNN, and more than 80,000 cases have been reported globally. With rapidly developing news about the spread of coronavirus has come a significant amount of medical research, Reuters reports.

Unvetted studies and rumors increase fears

Reuters found 675 researchers worldwide have published or posted more than 150 studies on the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 since the outbreak began. The news outlet points out that during the 2003 SARS outbreak, it took more than a year for even half that number of studies to be published.

The World Health Organization is using the term “infodemic” to describe the amount of inaccurate information being spread about coronavirus, according to NPR. False rumors circulating on social media range from coronavirus being a man-made bioweapon to a claim that more than 100,000 people have died.

The Lancet group of science and medical journals, has instituted “surge capacity” staffing to review 30 to 40 submissions a day the group is receiving on coronavirus, according to Reuters.

The concern among health experts is how much research is being posted online without peer review. Some of the information already has been revealed as flawed, or outright wrong.

“The public will not benefit from early findings if they are flawed or hyped,” Tom Sheldon, a science communications specialist at Britain’s non-profit Science Media Centre told Reuters.

Risk to healthcare workers

As the global healthcare community hustles to defeat a stream of misinformation, preventing and reducing the spread of the virus to healthcare workers is a top priority.

In a recently published report of the outbreak at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, about one-fourth of the healthcare workers contracted the coronavirus from a single patient, according to Hospital Infection Control & Prevention, a Relias Media blog.

That transmission is reminiscent of the “super spreader” phenomenon seen with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

“The challenge of this virus — if there is community spread — is that it is going to be much more difficult to separate [COVID-19] from everything else that causes fever and respiratory symptoms,” Allison McGeer, MD, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, told Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

“That could present a very significant challenge to protecting healthcare workers,” she continued. “Say a case comes to a hospital — for a reason that is completely unrelated to novel coronavirus — but …read more

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